Richard Long



1979 Richard Long (1945 − )

A footpath is a footpath and it is probably the same in China as in Scotland. It is just one stone after another.
Richard Long, 1991[1]

A footpath is a footpath and it is probably the same in China as in Scotland. It is just one stone after another.
Richard Long, 1991[1]

For over four decades Richard Long has set about uniting the acts of walking and sculpture, creating momentary, barely perceptible interventions in the landscape and recording them with carto¬graphic precision and economy. In 1967, while at St Martin’s School of Art in London, Long made the silently iconic work A Line Made by Walking, which consisted of his walking in a line in a field, and then recording the flattened grass in a photograph.[2] The line’s simplicity etches itself onto the brain. It is a gesture that is at once minimal, uni¬versal and complex: a temporal instant in which the artist is both absent and present. It is as if he has walked out of the moment and into the flux of history, somehow embedded in the photographic record without being in the picture. Hamish Fulton has said, ‘When I see an exhibi¬tion of Richard Long’s art I savour what I imagine were the decisions, some ideas even causing me to laugh, in appreciation.’[3] We imagine a lone figure enigmatically ordering nature into an instant of harmonious precision. His process is organised and ambulatory, considered but also meaningless; that is to say, quite simply the sum of its parts.

For Long, the straight line has an ‘intellectual beauty’, whilst the sculptures ‘directly feed the senses’.[4] Mind and body are simultaneously satisfied: unity and separation at once achieved. The immediacy of the stones forces the viewer to seek to place them, to absorb and unravel their context: how they came to be in the landscape, how they gave the landscape certain qualities, and then how the semi-shamanistic activi¬ties of Long have imbued them with a whole new set of meanings. It forces the viewer to see the blank white walls of the gallery environment in which the stones now find themselves as a perfectly evolved reposi¬tory for the appreciation of aesthetic beauty. These walls are unnatural, and yet wholly fitting, and Long reminds us that it is urban Modernism that provides the frame from which the beauty of the natural world is being perceived.

Long brings many histories to moments of alignment: the history of the land, the history of its inhabitants, the history of art and his own history at a certain point. His works could be said to traverse a ley line between Arte Povera and Conceptual art. They have a quiet privacy which is somewhat removed from the clatter of earth-moving machin¬ery in the assured hands of American Land Artists such as Robert Smithson or Michael Heizer. By contrast, Long’s interventions are hardly interventions at all. Something is picked up and put back down again. A straightforward record is made. He walks on.


[1]. Long in interview with Richard Cork, in Richard Long: Walking in Circles, exh. cat. (London: South Bank Centre, 1991), 249.
[2]. Tate Collection, London.
[3]. Hamish Fulton, ‘Old Muddy’, in Richard Long (1991), 243.
[4]. Long in interview with Richard Cork, 249.

Published in Passports British Council Collection, British Council, London 2009

  • Accession Number P3876
  • Dimensions 239 X 130 CM

Glossary (3)

  • Landscape

    Landscape is one of the principle genres of Western art. In early paintings the landscape was a backdrop for the composition, but in the late 17th Century the appreciation of nature for its own sake began with the French and Dutch painters (from whom the term derived). Their treatment of the landscape differed: the French tried to evoke the classical landscape of ancient Greece and Rome in a highly stylised and artificial manner; the Dutch tried to paint the surrounding fields, woods and plains in a more realistic way. As a genre, landscape grew increasing popular, and by the 19th Century had moved away from a classical rendition to a more realistic view of the natural world. Two of the greatest British landscape artists of that time were John Constable and JMW Turner, whose works can be seen in the Tate collection ( There can be no doubt that the evolution of landscape painting played a decisive role in the development of Modernism, culminating in the work of the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists . Since then its demise has often been predicted and with the rise of abstraction, landscape painting was thought to have degenerated into an amateur pursuit. However, landscape persisted in some form into high abstraction, and has been a recurrent a theme in most of the significant tendencies of the 20th Century. Now manifest in many media, landscape no longer addresses solely the depiction of topography, but encompasses issues of social, environmental and political concern.

  • Photograph

    A permanent image taken by means of the chemical action of light on light-sensitive surfaces.

  • Sculpture

    A three-dimensional work of art. Such works may be carved, modelled, constructed, or cast. Sculptures can also be described as assemblage, in the round, relief, and made in a huge variety of media. Contemporary practice also includes live elements, as in Gilbert & George 'Living Sculpture' as well as broadcast work, radio or sound sculpture.

Work Theme

Past exhibitions


  • 2013
    • Pakistan, VM Gallery
    • Pakistan, The Zahoor ul Akhlaq Gallery at the National College of Arts
    • India, Bengaluru, NGMA
    • India, Mumbai, Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum
    • India, Kolkata, The Harrington Street Arts Centre
    • Sri Lanka, Colombo, Lionel Wendt Gallery
    • India, Delhi, IGNCA
    • India, Delhi, IGNCA


  • 2009
    • Italy, Milan, Padglione D'arte Contemporanea


  • 2008
    • Kazakhstan, Almaty, State Museum Of Fine Arts
    • Pakistan, Islamabad, PCNA - National Art Gallery
    • Bangladesh, Dhaka, Bengal Gallery Of Fine Arts


  • 2005
    • Ireland, Letterkenny, Glebe House and Gallery


  • 1991
    • Argentina, Buenos Aires, Museo Nacional De Bellas Artes
    • Bulgaria, Sofia, Cyril Methodius Foundation
    • Belgium, Luxembourg, Musee National D'histoire Et D'art
  • 1990
    • Ussr, Kiev, Ukrainian Museum Of Fine Art
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